Jane Austen’s Novels–Super Romantic
What are the most romantic love stories ever written? Jane Austen’s novels, obviously, will take up the first six places on the Top Ten Most Romantic Books Ever list, so the question becomes, Which order do you put them in. Here are my criteria for choosing the most romantic of Austen’s books:
- Does the gentleman character seem like he’d really be fun to be around, apart from financial interests?
- Does does the lady character choose her man over other reasonable candidates and not just over criminally deranged gentlemen? I don’t want to get the impression that she is only getting married to avoid poverty and/or her family.
- Does it seem likely that the marriage will work out well over the long term?
Here are my choices in order. I will try to provide as few spoilers as possible. In Jane Austen’s novels, it never really comes as a surprise which gentleman the lady marries: the question is more along the lines of “How did they get over those obstacles.” Jane Austen’s six major novels are all available in print book, audiobook, eBook, and movie form at CCPL.
- Persuasion. No question that Captain Wentworth would be a lot of fun. The other guys who show an interest in Anne seem (at first) to be reasonably eligible candidates, so we can respect Anne for her judgment and lack of depressing desperation in picking Wentworth. The only downside is that Captain Wentworth’s profession involves more danger than you’d want for a husband you actually liked a lot.
- Pride and Prejudice. Despite Darcy’s support for libraries (“I cannot comprehend the neglect of a family library in such days as these,”) his initial proposal to Lizzy (“In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed”) is not reassuring. Still, Darcy’s estate, Pemberley, must be pretty incredible; Darcy’s income has been estimated at $727,470 per year in today’s money; and there is no downside to Lizzy getting away from her irritating family.
- Northanger Abbey. This is by far the funniest of Austen’s books. Henry Tilney has a fabulous sense of humor, and I just wish I’d been in a position to meet him instead of Catherine, whose obsession with horror novels makes her seem a little immature, even for a 16-year-old.
- through 6. Emma, Mansfield Park, and Sense and Sensibility. These are all books you’ll love and want to read over and over for the rest of your lives, but if you’re looking for a model for your next romance — eww. Emma is 20, and the man she ends up with is 37. In Sense and Sensibility, Marianne, 16, is paired up with a 35-year old. It saddens me a bit that the young woman characters do not get to have lasting fun with men nearer their own ages. As far as Fanny (Mansfield Park) and Elinor (Sense and Sensibility) are concerned, they do get their men in the end, but still, if I were in their shoes, because of Edmund and Edward’s past histories with, you know, other women, I’d be checking out their Facebook pages and Internet histories every few days, and once you start doing that, you know you’re on a bad track.
I will leave the last four members of the Top Ten Most Romantic Books Ever list to your own imaginations, except that if you’re at all tempted to include Wuthering Heights, you’re making a terrible mistake, because although Wuthering Heights is a wonderful, wonderful book, Heathcliff is a very, very bad man. Same thing with Jane Eyre, because ask yourself: Do I truly want to marry a man whose last wife was an insane arsonist he kept locked in the attic? (If this question interests you, you might want to read Texts from Jane Eyre: and Other Conversations With Your Favorite Literary Characters, by Mallory Ortberg. This book imagines text-message conversations between characters in all sorts of well-known books.)